Agile Applied

I used to build houses in Mexico for a charitable organization. I have done 15 of these trips, having played the role as ‘grunt’ on the first 8 or so, team lead on 3 or 4, and construction lead on a few. A typical trip usually goes something like this:

  • Meet at 5:00 a.m. and drive to an IHOP in San Diego, just a stone’s throw from the border crossing.
  • Eat, use the ‘facilities’ for the last time until Sunday, and gather as a group to receive our ‘Mexican Insurance’.
  • Cross the border, drop our overnight gear at a hacienda, and head to the worksite, by noon or so.
  • Organize the materials, start the frame of the house, and call it a day by 4:00 or so.
  • Saturday Morning, up at 5:00, eat, and travel to the worksite by 8:00.
  • Finish the framing, siding, and structure of the roof and outhouse by 4:00 or so, and head back to camp for dinner.
  • Sunday, repeat of Saturday morning- stay until painted, dry-walled, and completed. Head to In n’ Out Burger in Palermo.

On my first trip as a construction co-lead (13th trip?), I pulled my other lead, Tom, aside. I told him about this idea of blocking out the work into disparate chunks, having the group of 16-20 volunteers (secretaries, stay-at-home moms, software engineers, 1 or 2 tradesmen, pastors, and salesmen- many “first timers”) naturally form into groups that had some energy, and allowing them to pick their direction. He thought I was a little nuts at first, probably more because he was a command and control tradesman, with his own construction oriented business- and that’s how stuff gets done! After some prodding, and convincing that we are probably no better off anyway, he agreed. Long story short, we ran it passed the team at breakfast- and everyone was ‘in’.

Tune in next week for the results.  Just kidding.

When we got to the worksite, the teams were already formed. People just started ‘doing stuff’. It was amazing. We took breaks every two hours, verified what direction everyone was operating in, and kept the pedal down. We reviewed at the end of the day Friday, retrospected around a campfire Friday night, and planned for the next day. Saturday, we kept the same pattern- AND FINISHED, at about 4:15. In all my trips, no team had everfinished on Saturday. Now, do you want to know the really fun part about this? There was a team working right next to us, with teams of people that had done this once before. On Friday, as our 4th wall was going up, they were taping a plotted Gantt chart to the side of a shack that was on their build lot. Just saying… Of course we helped them

Remember, as Keanu Reeves last attempt to motivate his team in “The Replacements”- “Pain heals, chicks dig scars, and Glory lasts forever.”

Take a chance on evangelizing Agile today- and look fondly upon the results!Scrum ain’t easy. Neither is sitting on the Mexico side of the border crossing on a Sunday night. You choose.

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